“You don’t do formal sales training in business school,” observed Brian Tino ’11, an enterprise account executive (a.k.a. salesperson) with InVision, a prototyping, collaboration, and workflow platform for designers. That may be one reason, he continued, why you might wrongly equate sales with less–than-loveable car salesmen and telemarketers. Tino was moderator of a panel on November 9th of four Isenberg alumni who made a positive case for sales as a profession.
Organized by Isenberg’s Marketing Club, the event resonated with inside-business narratives and insights of upwardly mobile graduates in the tech and software industry. “Sales in technology firms has fundamentally changed,” emphasized Sasanka Atapattu ’03, CEO of his own startup firm, LaunchSource. It used to be pushing products and services at clients, he said. Today, it is listening to them, researching their needs, and providing consulting and solutions.
“Our training requires that we learn their [i.e., customers’] objectives,” observed Lauren Petrucelli ’12, inside sales development representative with MillwardBrown Digital. “They view us as a partner; they turn to us as a trusted advisor.” That includes sizing up a client’s needs to determine whether your offerings are an appropriate fit. “It’s all about qualification and disqualification [of prospects],” noted Connor Crimmins ’10, an inbound marketing specialist with HubSpot.
Collaboration and Independence
The current approach to sales has pretty much deep-sixed the once common practice of cold calls, at least in the technology and software industry. “No cold calls yet,” confessed Adrian Donahue ’15, who joined InVision as a sales development rep after graduation last May. Donahue credited his rapid learning curve both to customers and to coworkers. “I don’t stop talking to members of our sales team. It’s an open line all day,” he said.
“Work at a market leader or a second place competitor,” advised Tino. “Working for a product leader makes it so much easier.” To that end, in most companies, top sales reps have more earning power than most other employees, he continued. For a successful rep, six-figure salaries are all but guaranteed within a few years, the panelists agreed. Apart from busy seasons, they also have considerable flexibility. “You run your own business inside the business,” observed Crimmins. “I have a monthly quota. (Still, there’s a ton of collaboration, he added.)
While the four panelists had been marketing majors at Isenberg, Tino was a finance major who had stumbled onto sales and fell in love with it. (The entrepreneurial Atapattu also subsequently earned an MBA degree in Boston.) A show of hands among the student audience revealed a sizable marketing contingent, but also students from six of Isenberg’s seven departments. That, the panelists agreed, was a testament to the value of sales as a universal, cross-cutting business activity.